(back to Zool V Chapter Eight)
(It wasn't my fault I didn't know that Google was Cthulhu in disguise, and seeing as you were the one to invoke Google first, that makes you an orange, doesn't it?) Isidore sneered defensively. Huh, said Artu, turning away in a sulk.
"Boys, boys, work to be done..." Deb warned. "Save the arguments for later. We've got to find a way off this planet, right?" Alan, Prom, Orusagoon, Is and Artu nodded. "Boss - can you lend a hand?"
++I do not know, Wiki said tremulously. ++My real-space capabilities are finite, and I cannot interface with cyberspace without risking infection from Google...
(So why is a raven like a writing-desk?) Isidore had engaged God in a bit of conversation. "I have no idea," the long-suffering Supreme Being replied, "I'd have to ask Dr Dodgson when I next see him. Isn't there anywhere I could get a decent cup of coffee?" Isidore shook his head. "Pity, pity. I really don't think well in the mornings without one. Never mind." (In the mornings?) Isidore gave God a funny look. (It's not morning.) "Trust me, my son, when a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years are as a day, it feels like first thing in the morning all the time."
There's an easy way out, Artu pointed out to Deb and the rest. Ask Him. He pointed in the direction of a startled God: one blink from the deity and, lo, they were elsewhere... --TL
They stood on cold grey soil beneath ash-white trees unbent, untouched by the brisk wind. Old death hung like a shadow on the air.
<Erm...> Prometheus looked around.
(I thought you were taking us to Earth to fight Cthulhu?) Isidore turned to face God, but the deity seemed to have disappeared. (Where's God?)
"Everywhere," Deb told him metaphysically but unhelpfully.
"We can't face Cthulhu alone," Orusagoon told them. "He has the might of chaos itself at his back... and a lot of very nasty tentacles. The oldest legends tell of the Six, and of the great quest they must undertake."
Meanwhile, Alan and Artu were examining their new environment. There must have been a forest fire... Artu theorised, before Alan directed him to his radiation sensors. "Nuclear winter. Where do you suppose we are." Another thought occurred to him. "And is it safe?" Isidore and I have radiation shielding that should be quite strong enough, Artu assured him, and Prometheus and yourself seem to have been upgraded to almost the same level... but the organics... he turned nervously.
"Oh, don't fear on my account," Eelalog smiled. "I'm only part organic... in a sense, I'm an offshoot of Wiki itself."
"I'm assuming you're not about to warn me" Deborah said primly.
(All right,) Isidore made an irritable gesture. (That's enough, guys. So, God's sent us on a mission to find something we can use against Cthulhu... anyone got any further useful snippets they'd like to share?) There was a general shaking of heads. Isidore nodded. (Then I've got a thought. They've come up from time to time, but never been mentioned in much detail. Doug Death said they would be strong enough to fight off Saitra, so they'd certainly be useful allies against Cthulhu.) He led the way through the jungle, eventually pushing aside two petrified trees which crumbled to dust before him, and indicating a gleaming yet ruined structure before him. (New Oxford... currently destroyed. I thought as much when I saw this post-apocalyptic nuclear wasteland.) Deb nodded.
"You're right. They are the only force who can save the Earth from total destruction, and it is here that they were last sighted. We must find the Ooze-fugue, and lead them once more into battle." -- WJR
<That's always assuming they're still around,> Prometheus grouched, before being shushed by Alan. "No, that was the idea behind my working for Wiki," Deb explained. "They're sort of immortal."
Onward they walked, through many and strange buildings, the echoes of Gothic arches barely pushing above the swamp. Orusagoon yelped and leapt into Deb's arms as something unspeakably clawed and sludgy tried to grasp at his ankle. "What was that?"
Deb gave a characteristically laconic reply. "The Cherwell. It's not very well at the moment." Weird guppings and moanings could be heard below the surface of the quagmire. "I think it's got indigestion from all the alcohol that's been poured into it down the millennia... and a nuclear detonation in the vicinity won't've helped." I never knew a river could get a hangover, Artu smirked. "Who said anything about a river?" Artu shut up.
They pulled up suddenly as a phalanx of flying monkeys flitted overhead with weird screams. "Too Much Gin! Too Much Gin!" Of the lead three monkeys, Isidore noticed, one had its hands over its ears, one had its hands over its mouth, and one had its hands over its --
The latter promptly collided with a tree, its fingers, now battered, still covering its eyes. "Must Not See Ilev!" it chattered. (Could you tell me where we might find the Ooze-fugue?) he enquired. "Our Creators!" it exclaimed. "The Lords Of Special Projects! We Have Borken Free! We Hate Them! We Don't Know Where They Are!"
(Thanks a bunch,) said Isidore bitterly. (Now what?)
Alan raised a hand, tentatively. "In my old incarnation, I used to share a room with the Library of old: if we want to find the Ooze-fugue, we could always put down something that'll make it worth their while to come to us..."
He glanced round the motley crew, and down to See No Ilev. "Anyone know where we might get sugar-cubes?" --TL
See No Ilev shook its head emphatically. "No!"
<You seem awfully sure about something you claim to know nothing about?> Prometheus looked down at the monkey suspiciously.
"We don't know where they are!" Isidore sighed and looked at Deb. (Any chance of a little 'friendly persuasion' from you? Orusagoon?) Both shook their heads.
"I'm sworn to only use my power in the protection of the innocent... or the persecution of Republicans."
"Whatever." Alan-Breck sighed. "Listen, monkey, if you take us to the sugar cubes we'll make it worth your while."
"How?" The monkey 'looked' up- still with its hands clamped tightly over its eyes, its tone suddenly acquisitive. Alan looked stumped.
Tell us what you want. Artu patted the monkey on the back. Tell us what you want more than anything in the world. A crafty expression slid across the lower half of the monkey's face. "What they took from us... yesss... but it's gone. My Shrove Tuesday Present..." The monkey gurgled in its throat.
Meanwhile, in one of a seemingly endless stock of elsewheres, four of a seemingly endless stock of shadowy figures of great import held court. They had forgotten their names. Names were transitory. By the twenty-fourth century Wiki, shortly after buying out Microsoft, had developed technology to such a stage that in addition to the transfer of committee posts from one member to another, specially programmed software would collate all the desirable personality traits for that post held by the current incumbent, and transfer them on to the next. The meta-personality accumulated over time, until finally, long before the destruction of Oxford, names had already become an irrelevance. Committee members were grown in vats, their minds a blank slate, awaiting their imprinting with the personality of their post.
"This-ss could be a complication... tion..." said President, reclining in its vat of Stroh and breathing in the heady fumes. Behind it, in a small lake of mud, two other shadowy figures perpetually wrestled. One of them spoke up.
""I say we proceed as planned."" The figure paused. ""Our spending projections for this fiscal quarter make no allowances for galactic intervention.""
'That extreme a bit is, Treasurer,' protested the other mud-wrestling figure. 'We still a responsibility to the galaxy have.'
""Well don't blame me if we run out of money and can't afford to make the Punch!"" Treasurer snapped back at Secretary.
"This-ss is a terrible picture you paint-aint..." hissed President. A gunshot rang out as the President's official portrait artist committed hari-kiri. "Not you-ou.. too late-ate," he sighed. On a monitor, the six travellers were interrogating a flying monkey. One withered, claw-like Presidential hand inched its way out of the Stroh and raised the volume.
If you take us to Sugar Cubes, we'll find your 'Shrove Tuesday present', one of the cyborgs was saying. The four Committee members drew in their breath with an indrawn hiss. 'Sugar cubes resist we cannot', Secretary murmured.
"Indeed-eed, so we now face an important question-tion. Do we help these strangers, or kill them-em."
"A more important question yet," the voice of Librarian, the fourth member, said from the door, "Is when the heck you three are going to get off my floor and go home." -- WJR
'One more cup of tea need I,' croaked Secretary. 'Then and save must we universe the go. On hang.' It pulled a long jagged green line from its last speech-bubble, and throttled a nearby animated paperclip with it. 'These annoying grammatical suggestions hate I.' "We-e must find the Ring-ing," President concluded. "Before-ore they do-oo." ""Have we paid the overdue fees on that video we rented?"" Treasurer enquired. "There were no fees, eejit," Librarian sneered. "Secretary went and bootlegged the thing." 'A few quid saved it did,' Secretary protested.
The three other Committee Members looked at their compatriot with a gimlet eye as an eerie bonging sounded and a timecode floated in their vision in Japanese.
The oddly-matched fellowship of seven started at the noise. (See No?) Isidore called out quietly to the winged monkey. (Did you hear that?) "Probably just a random in-joke," said Deb dismissively. "Let's find that sugar." A thick fall of snow suddenly obscured their vision... no, Artu realised, it was visual interference of the sort that appeared on a 2D video that had been copied too many times. Hey, See No, we can't see! he yelled. Where is this? "We Don't Know!" See No Ilev squeaked. "Neep!" it added as it collided with something.
Orusagoon had stopped, and waited for the interference to dissipate, and now that it had faded, saw a forest clearing with a stone-walled well in the middle of it. See No Ilev had run straight into it. "There once were three girls, Elsie, Lacie and Tillie," he quoted quietly.
Artu leaned over the edge of the well, and sniffed. Complexes of glucose and associated carbohydrates, a bit carbonised... this must be a treacle well. What a thing to come from a spring, eh? Hey-- Something hit him on the back of the head, hard: already overbalanced, he fell straight into the well.
<Talk about a sticky end,> Prometheus said, helplessly. --TL
(ARTU!) Isidore leant down the well and bellowed. Alan, Deb, and Orusagoon turned quickly to face Artu's attacker. It was a mad scientist. Lest anyone fear that this is a premature judgement of character, this shall be rephrased to state that it was a shambling figure with an insane leer in the place of a smile, eyes which gave the impression they were just about to fall from their sockets, and a wild shock of white hair.
"It's Professor Rotwang from "Metropolis," Alan exclaimed. When the others looked at him he remarked, "Well, it is!" Rotwang loomed at them, and opened his mouth. Suddenly all their vision faded to black for a moment, and words appeared in slightly jittery white font:
"Your robot must be destroyed."
As their vision returned Isidore, his face enraged, moved towards Rotwang, but Deb held him back. "No, if Artu was dead I'd feel it. He's hurt, but alive!"
<Then what is down that well?> Deb's eyes went distant for a moment, her Endless mind probing into the depths. "I'm not..." the even rhythm of her voice suddenly quivered. "That's not quite right... the image is... Oh NO!" The last words were shrieked, and her head whipped back suddenly, her eyes wide. Alan caught her as she fell back, her face twisted in the most terrible fear and horror.
(What is it?) Isidore and the rest gathered round. Behind them, Professor Rotwang peered into the well. Orusagoon examined the now catatonic Endless. "Fear. She's seen something in her mind... something that would have killed a mortal to even imagine." <Will she be all right?> "I don't know."
"Can't you just use some Wiki Zen on her?" Alan asked, wretchedly. Orusagoon shook his head. "Not here. This is the real world- or what passes for it. Besides, what do you expect me to do? Create a Wikipage for InsaneS!!t and send her madness thereoooooh!" he ended, ridiculously, as a silver and grey grappling hook shot up out of the well, fastened onto the stone wall and quickly morphed back into Artu's hand. Covered in treacle and thin red bands of some material, Artu staggered to the ground, his eyes wide and, not even looking at his friends, ran, trailing the red loops and coils from the well behind him. Professor Rotwang, staring down into the depths, gave one faint squeak and keeled over backwards, dead.
(Let's get out of here.) Then it came. Two hands, gnarled and shredded, seized the parapet and lifted. A great mound of lank, black hair rose into view, hanging over an unseen face. A figure in sodden white robes climbed up out of the well. Isidore, heroic cyborg that he was, found himself shaking in fear as the bonging sound they'd heard before made a reappearance. The figure moved closer. Frozen with fear, Isidore and the others- Artu on the edge of the clearing, his panicked flight arrested by the same paralysis, and Deb slumped unconscious between Alan-Breck and Prometheus, watched as the figure moved slowly closer. It stretched out one hand towards them, a hand containing a business card. Isidore squinted. (F... A... C... T) He read. (The Federation Against Copyright Theft.) The figure moved closer, and closer...
In the shadows of the Library, the Committee watched unfolding events in horror. ""RPGSoc Accounts!"" the Treasurer swore, using the most vile curse known to his kind. 'This very bad is.' "They have awakened the Great Enemy-enemy," the President gulped. The Librarian peered at the monitor as the figure moved closer and closer to the screen... -- WJR
Continued in Zool V Chapter Ten
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